Posted tagged ‘marketing’

Creating a “My Kid First” Mentality for Customer Experiences



mkf1It’s a truth universally known: Every parent wants the best for their child, no matter the situation.

Critical to providing a positive customer experience is that school staff members understand that parents come with those high expectations. Staff should always be prepared to deal with the “My Kid First” (MKF) mentality when they talk with parents or host them at parent conferences and other gatherings throughout the year.

Parents want schools to treat their children fairly, provide a caring and nurturing climate, and leave them with a sense that their child is in great hands in your class and your school.

If parents don’t feel this sense of security, your schools will quickly be in jeopardy of losing students to private, charter, or other alternative programs that are now readily available in this era of school choice. So, as we prepare to interact with parents in our schools, we must always remember to provide staff with professional development opportunities so that they can make the most of their customer/parent experiences.

In NSPRA’s newest publication, Making/Marketing Your School the School of Choice, we offer a number of tools to boost the customer experience with your school including:

  • First Impressions Report Card — A look at functional signage, clean hallways and classrooms, displays of student art work, etc.
  • “Secret Shopper” Customer Service Checklist — A review of the timeliness of your responses, how you address questions and requests, how warmly you greet people, etc.
  • How Customer Friendly Is Your School? — Useful questions to guide your assessment: Can office signs be read from all approaches? Do all employees — not just office staff — take responsibility for answering phones because phones should not ring for more than 5 times? Have all employees been instructed on how to greet visitors and offer assistance?


Plus, a number of newer customer service books for business ventures have recently hit the market. Most address the attitude and flexibility of staff dealing with situations. As an example, Jeanne Bliss, a customer service industry guru just published, Would You Do That to Your Mother? Some school transferrable advice from Bliss includes:

  • Let your availability reflect how you care. Be there to answer questions and give guidance; don’t make customers hunt for answers.
  • Let your paperwork navigate customers to clarity and understanding. Avoid jargon as well. What is a blended learning and is it only in a blended classroom?
  • How you apologize is your humanity litmus test. Things will go wrong, that’s a given; handle them with empathy and compassion.
  • A graceful departure may lead to an eventual return. If you lose a student or parent to a competitor, be helpful and wish them well. They may just return next semester once they realize how much your school offered them.

One additional takeaway on the newer approaches to customer service is that employees should have the authority to override policy from time to time when common sense or the “golden rule” should prevail. For instance, don’t let this scenario be the norm: “You submitted your application 9 minutes late for the scholarship because an accident backed up traffic, so we cannot accept it.” No, be reasonable! Accept the application!

Understand that people come to you with the “My Kid First” mentality and make sure that the importance of creating a positive customer experience always guides your actions.



Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director


Photos by Jim Cummings, APR, Glendale Elementary School District





Delivering Beyond the Normal and Expected


Pages from Draft-NSPRA 2017 San Antonio Monday General Session--0628017

In the year ahead, consider stretching your thinking about solving school community issues or expanding your district’s opportunities by using great, creative school PR.

I often say that because of NSPRA’s award programs, we have a cat-bird seat to see the very best tactics and strategies throughout the US and Canada.

As I reviewed this year’s winners, I was struck by the content choices of the programs that went beyond the normal-but-critical accomplishments that many of our professionals provide.

Let me share just a few stellar examples:

PSJA Votes Campaign

This Golden Achievement winner for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD in Pharr, Texas, tackled a community issue of low voter registration with their school employees and greater community.33

Through great engagement and marketing of voter registration campaigns, employee voter registrations went from less than 25% to more than 72% in the 2016 presidential election.

From Here You Can Go Anywhere

People often ask us at NSPRA:

What can we do with nearly 80% of our residents who no longer have connections with our schools?

After two defeats in capital bond measures, the Traverse City Area Public Schools in Michigan knew it was clear that parents were in favor of the measure, but the total community — not so much.tcaps

So a Golden Achievement award-winning campaign was born to demonstrate the terrific results earned by Traverse City graduates. Entitled From Here, You Can Go Anywhere, billboards, kiosks, website banners, and other social media applications carried the message out to the community so people could see the real achievements of graduates.

Marketing in Our Increasing Era of Competition

We all know that we are in an era of increased competition — a major issue many of us are facing. Some see vouchers and other initiatives — Education Savings Accounts, Opportunity Scholarships, etc., that are really “vouchers in sheep’s clothing” — as solutions. Others see them as another way to bash education and steal and reduce funding for public education.1

As the choice movement continues, we see members turning up the flame on their marketing efforts. This year, the Garland Independent School District in Texas, one of our Gold Medallion winners, began marketing its new Montessori schools that the district offers.

The effort certainly opened the eyes of some people. They now realize that plenty of choices are within our public schools to meet the increasing needs of all our students.

Communication to Combat Health and Safety Issues

And finally, this space does not permit me to sufficiently discuss these three Gold Medallion winners except to praise them for their results and effort. Their communication focus dealt with testing water for lead, a “Be Well Campaign” supporting youth mental health issues, and opening communication about the severity of opioid and heroin crisis in local communities.3

You can learn about these Gold Medallion Winners and 8 others by going to Gold Medallion winners.

Stray from Your Lane

All of these examples prove that our school PR profession should stray at times from our normal lane of what is expected of us for our schools. Every once in a while, we need to jump from our normal lane, and go down another path to enlighten and help solve major community issues in your school community.

It takes courage to take these steps and you will undoubtedly receive push-back from colleagues and others — like “Why in the world is the school district’s communication director mucking around in this community problem?”

But you know better than most what a communication effort and campaign can do to bring focus and solutions to the key issues that your school community is facing.4

So muster up the courage to begin persuading your district’s leaders to look at school PR beyond the “good news” function we continue to provide. Use your talent and insight to help your students and staff succeed by going beyond the normal and the expected.

We encourage you to drive out of your lane — speed bumps and flashing yellow lights and all — to make a new difference in your school community.



Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director


You Will Want Another Child So She Can Go to School Here


“Come Visit. You Will Want Another Child Just So She Can Go to School Here.”

“Come Visit. You Will Want Another Child Just So She Can Go to School Here.”

The upcoming April issue of NSPRA’s PRinicpal Communicator carries the above quote from Darcy Whitehead, principal of Mary G. Porter Traditional School in Prince William County,Virginia.

Darcy hits a bulls-eye with her quote and that quote could even be turned into a slogan or tagline for her school and school districts everywhere. The rest of us come with up taglines like, World-class education, Shaping the world one student at a time, or First Class Achievement for First Class Students. But Darcy’s statement strikes an emotional and light-hearted chord because it recognizes that all parents want the very best for their kids. And she does it in a way that even challenges parents to see her school for themselves. Urging parents to have another child also triggered a smirk on my face, but after just topping off two complete college tuitions, my wife and I are poised for some other less-expensive adventures!

Compete or Not to Compete

The April PRincipal Communicator is about marketing your individual school at a time when competition from private schools, charters, net-driven home schoolers, and open-enrollment public school programs are all knocking on our parents’ doors. Capturing new students at the kindergarten level can translate into more than $75,000 per child if you track state funding of $6,000 per student for 13 years. The flip side is that $75,000 is what you potentially lose if new students choose another school or transfer from yours.

Often principals are frustrated because they know that their staff and programs match up and usually are more comprehensive in their offerings than their competition. Parents are often lured by the newest school or by the promise of individual attention. When one of our sons was making the transition from middle to high school, I guess I became a “mystery shopper” by attending a private school’s open house to see how it was handled.

Say That Again?

 Before a packed setting, the headmaster of this very fine school noted that every child meets with an adult teacher or counselor every day for 5 to 10 minutes to “check in” on their well being. I watched other prospective parents relishing that type of individual attention. But, on the tour that followed the presentation, I asked our bright and articulate student guide about the 5-10 minute individual counseling time. He gave me a puzzled look and said he was not aware of it. I asked, “Do you have any 5- to 10-minute unstructured time with a teacher other than lunch in your day?” We both concluded that the headmaster was only talking about the school-wide home room period each day. Yes, I guess that time could be used for individual counseling, but we all know that the percentage of that happening every day was very low.

So we need to help all of our principals improve their open houses and share with them what their competition is saying about their own schools. We need to learn about the timing of open houses and just not offer them months after the private school recruitment period. We must play more aggressive offense when we talk about the caring and comprehensive programs we offer.

Competition will only continue to grow. Your marketing, communication, and engagement efforts must grow to meet the demands of the competition.

Start your own See for Yourself marketing efforts and more of your parents may recognize what a great bargain and comprehensive program you offer.

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director